How Apple could use its massive cash pile to educate the world


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Apple University could be opened in empty Apple Stores after they've closed.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s got a pile of cash on hand that’s estimated to exceed $285 billion. So how should it spend it? Over the years, we’ve heard plenty of ideas — ranging from buying Disney to giving large sums of money back to shareholders.

Scott Galloway, clinical professor of marketing at the New York University Stern School of Business, has a different suggestion. His concept? That Apple should launch the world’s largest tuition-free university.

Putting a massive dent in the universe

His idea was first proposed in the (excellent) tech strategy book The Four, which was one of Cult of Mac’s picks for best books of the year in 2017. It’s now the subject of an op-ed for Wired, which you can read here. Galloway argues that not only would a tuition-free university be an amazing public good (something Apple is kind of keen on being!), but that it also represents a big profit opportunity.

He writes:

“[Apple] needs to ‘flip’ the current funding model, by making it tuition-free for students and by charging companies to recruit there. At the moment, companies go to universities and think of them as their giant HR departments. The reasons are obvious. Universities are great at screening applicants, picking smart people, ensuring they can work in groups and that they are emotionally stable. Universities aren’t in the business of educating, as much as they are in the business of granting credentials to its students. Apple would be very good at attracting the best candidates. And in exchange for access to those students, corporates would be willing to pay a lot of money.”

By following this strategy, he thinks that Apple would immediately have several million applications. Apple Stores, he writes, could serve as campuses for these universities. That’s because they’re located in highly dense, populated areas, and are left pretty much empty after they close.

It’s a fascinating — if utopian — dream. Apple actually already has an Apple University, which is used to train up its executives. Nonetheless, given Apple’s history focusing on the education market, this would be a perfect fit. Would it ever happen? It seems unlikely that it would, but, then again, it seemed unlikely that Apple would become the world’s biggest company after almost collapsing entirely in the 1990s.

With Apple likely to pass a $1 trillion valuation this summer, this would be one way to put a dent in the universe bigger than any iPhone or Macintosh.